Monday, January 31, 2011

Pumpkin Pasta

Pumpkin Pasta

This is my take on Rachael Ray's pumpkin pasta.  My version is healthier yet still tastes delicious!!!!!  1/2 tsp of dried sage could be added to or substituted for the thyme, but I was out.  Add salt and pepper to your taste, but the broth added enough salt for me.

-1 lb whole wheat linguine or fettucine, cooked al dente
-1 onion, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 cup chicken broth
-1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
-1 bay leaf
-1 Tbsp brown sugar
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-1/2 tsp dried thyme
-1/8 tsp cinnamon
-1/8 tsp nutmeg
-1/2 cup fat-free half and half
-salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion over medium heat until soft (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Stir in chicken broth, pumpkin, bay leaf, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, thyme, cinnamon and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 5 to 6 minutes to thicken. Stir in half and half and heat through.  Add pasta into the hot pan of sauce and continue to cook until the noodles absorb the sauce (about 2 minutes).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Honey Balsamic Roasted Carrots

Honey Balsamic Carrots

I liked the maple roasted carrots so much that I decided to try another variation with my remaining 1 pound of carrots.  These were good, but I think I liked the maple roasted carrots best and will stick to that method.  Rosemary could be substituted for the thyme if that suits your taste.

-1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
-1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-2 Tbsp honey
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1/2 tsp thyme

Whisk together the vinegar, oil, honey, salt, pepper and thyme.  Toss balsamic mixture with carrots.  Roast at 425 for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping carrots every 10 minutes.

wedding gift

I whipped this plaque up as an inexpensive gift for friends who recently got married.  Since we don't have room for buying gifts in our budget right now it has been fun to come up with thoughtful, creative ways to celebrate special occasions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Maple Roasted Carrots

Maple Roasted Carrots

This is my favorite way that I've ever eaten carrots, and with such simple preparation I'm sure I will be doing this again.  The maple taste was very subtle, next time I think I'd double the maple syrup just to pack in more flavor.  I used sugar-free maple syrup because that is what we keep on hand, but any maple syrup would work.

-1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-2 Tbsp maple syrup
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp black pepper

Whisk together olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper.  Toss carrots with maple mixture.  Place carrots on greased baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes at 425, stirring and flipping carrots every 10 minutes.

13 weeks

Here is what is going on with Noah this week according to;

Your baby can now wave her arms and pump her legs. And as her hip and knee joints become more flexible, her kicks are getting stronger. Hold her upright with her feet on the floor and feel her push down.  Your baby can also bring both hands together and open and close her fingers. Encourage her eye-hand coordination by holding out a toy to see if she'll reach for it. (Yes, swatting at a toy is a developmental milestone!) Just be sure to move that mobile out of your baby's reach, because she may be able to bring it crashing down before too long.

Babies simply love to be touched. In fact, they thrive on it — it's a critical part of growth and development. All that skin-to-skin contact not only helps you and your baby bond, but is comforting when she's upset and soothing when she's irritable.  Nurture your baby's sense of touch with a variety of materials — such as fur, felt, and terrycloth. Your baby will likely try to eat everything, so choose carefully and don't leave her alone with anything that could come apart in her mouth. And look for books like Pat the Bunny that make reading a tactile experience.  Touch — the feel of a gentle breeze or a massage, being carried on your hip, or kissed on the nose — is a powerful way to relax or engage your baby. It may even make her more alert and help her have a longer attention span.  For a simple baby massage, find a warm, flat surface to lay your baby on — a blanket on a carpeted floor is fine. Pour a little baby oil or vegetable oil in your palms and rub your hands together to warm them and the oil. Look into your baby's eyes, and sing or talk to her as you do the massage.  Pay attention to your baby's response: If she doesn't seem to be enjoying herself, try a lighter or heavier touch, or simply stop. No need to know about special strokes, either. All she needs is your gentle touch.

Not much new this week.  Noah is still sleeping through the night (from 9 pm- 5 am).  He's still nursing every 3 hours.  He smiles and laughs a lot.  He loves to stand up (with you stabilizing him), to kick his legs against stuff, and to push against things with his arms.  Him and Luke (the one year old that I watch) get along great and love watching each other.  Noah laughs and smiles while Luke plays.  Noah is still getting a little more interested in toys, and loves batting his hands at things, but still doesn't quite grasp onto toys himself yet.  He hardly ever sucks on his pacifier now and pretty much always has a few fingers tucked into his mouth to suck on.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Irresistible Revolution

I recently read  The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne.  Aside from the Bible, this is one of the most challenging books that I've ever read.  Throughout the book Shane focuses on the concepts of loving and meeting the needs of the poor, loving our enemies and being peacemakers, and loving our neighbors.  He challenges Christians to be faithful in these areas, and shares stories of how he has done these things in very counter-cultural ways.  Shane shares some of his experiences from serving a colony of lepers in Calcutta, to his time as a peacemaker in Iraq while the US was bombing them, to some of the ways his community, The Simple Way, are living out the Gospel in their neighborhood.  Inspiring and challenging pretty much sums it up.  It's a great, easy read... check it out!

p. 113 "We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what He did.  We can applaud what He preached and stood for without caring about the same things.  We can adore his cross without taking up ours"

p. 102 "Jesus never says to the poor, 'Come find the church,' but he says to those of us in the church, Go into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned..."

p. 71 "The matter is quite simple, The Bible is very easy to understand, but we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.  We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.  Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly.  My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined.  How would I ever get on in the world?  Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship.  Christian scholarship is the prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close"

p. 170 "Poverty was created not by God but by you and me, because we have not learned to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Gandhi put it well when he said, "There is enough for every one's need, but there is not enough for every one's greed.""

p. 329 "We cannot magically arrive at a community that allows us to give everything if we do not currently nurture a culture of sacrificial giving.  As Gandhi taught, the means must express the end that we desire; the journey is as important as the destination.  If our community, in its current state, does not reflect the brilliant cultural and economic diversity that marked the early Jesus revolution, how can it reflect that in its later state?"

p. 329 "Our big visions for multiculturalism and reconciliation will make their way into the church only when they are first lived out in real relationships, out of our homes and around our dinner tables and in our living rooms.  Perhaps this is why Jesus begins it all by sitting around a table with a Roman tax collector, a Zealot revolutionary, a fisherman, a Pharisee, and a prostitute."

p. 344 "What is crazier: one person owning the same amount of money as the combined economies of 23 countries, or suggesting that if we shared, there would be enough for everyone?"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kale Chips

Kale Chips

I have been seeing recipes for Kale Chips all over foodie blogs for months.  Since I had leftover kale from the Zuppa Toscana from yesterday I decided to give these a try.  They were delicious!!!!  They crunched and shattered in my mouth just like potato chips, and are healthy and super easy to make.

-1 bunch of kale, washed, dried and cut into bite sized chunks
-4 tsp olive oil
-salt to taste

Toss kale with olive oil and salt.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake at 300 for 20 minutes, or until nice and crunchy.

12 weeks

Here is what is going on with Noah this week according to;

Even though your baby has been able to recognize you since he was just a few days old, he may now be able to show it. About half of babies this age begin to exhibit an obvious recognition of their parents. Most likely he'll still smile at strangers, especially when they look him straight in the eye and coo or talk to him. But he's beginning to sort out who's who in his life, and he definitely prefers you, your partner, and a select few over others. Your baby may quiet down and make eye contact with you, or he may search for you in a room and move his arms in excitement or smile when he finds you. He may even find your scent calming and comforting. A big spurt is happening in your baby's brain development that coincides with significant behavioral changes. Your baby is more attuned to the outside world and more sensitive to changes in his environment. The part of the brain that governs hand-eye coordination and allows a baby to recognize objects is developing rapidly now. His hearing, language, and smell have also become more receptive and active. When your baby hears your voice these days, he may even look directly at you and start gurgling or trying to talk back.
Research shows that babies whose parents speak to them extensively have significantly higher IQs and bigger vocabularies when they get older than other children, so interaction is especially important right now. Set a solid foundation by exposing your baby to a variety of words. Talk about your surroundings when you take him for a walk, and point to and identify objects as you roam the grocery store aisles. Your baby can't repeat these words yet, but he's storing all the information in his rapidly developing memory. If your home is bilingual, your baby will benefit from hearing both languages spoken regularly. Don't worry if some of his verbal skills seem to lag a bit at first. He'll not only catch up later, but he may also excel in his general language skills.

Noah is doing great.  This week he has started to get interested in toys.  He loves to sit in his bouncy seat and swing his arms at the animals in front of him.  He can keep himself entertained for up to an hour doing this.  He also loves trying to use his legs and kicking them all around.  He likes doing squats where we stabalize his body, but all of his weight is supported by his legs and he'll push himself from seated to standing and back again. This week I started keeping a one year old boy two days a week to make a little extra money, and the two kiddos are loving staring and smiling at each other.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Zuppa Toscana



Zuppa Toscana

I've never actually had Zuppa Toscana before, so I'm not sure how this compares to an authentic version.  I found a recipe for this soup that sounded delicious and modified it to come up with something that sounded good (and healthy) to me.  I absolutely love this soup, but Jeremy is just so so about it (although I don't think he's much of a soup person anyway).  In the picture I cooked and sliced the sausage, but lately I've been cooking and crumbling the sausage (as updated in the recipe below) and we both seem to like the soup even better this way.

-2 Tbsp olive oil
-1 lb Italian turkey sausage
-1 onion, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes
-7 cups chicken broth
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-6 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced
-1 cup heavy cream, half and half, or fat-free half and half
-1/2 lb kale, stems removed and chopped into bite size pieces

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Cook onions and sausage over medium heat, stirring often and breaking up sausage with a wooden spoon, until sausage is no longer pink (5-10 minutes). Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 1 minute.  Add chicken broth to the pot, heat until it starts to boil.  Add salt and pepper.  Add the sliced potatoes and cook until soft (about 20-30 minutes).  Using a potato masher (or large spoon) mash some of the potatoes to give the soup a thicker consistency. Add the heavy cream and cook until thoroughly heated.  Stir in the kale, let all heat through and serve.

some crafting

Here's some recent crafting I've been doing...

rosette bib necklace
I've become addicted to making these rolled fabric rosettes.  I've been tearing up all of my old tshirts to make piles of these.  I see lots of bib necklaces, headbands, and pins in my future.
an appliqued onesie and a rosette headband for a special little girl

Mexican Breakfast Casserole

Mexican Breakfast Casserole

I had lots of leftover enchilada sauce, cheese, tortillas, olives, cilantro and scallions after last nights enchiladas, and thus this breakfast casserole was born.  I served it for dinner, but it would be delicious for breakfast or lunch.  Both Jeremy and I think we might have liked this even more than the enchiladas, so it would be worth making enchilada sauce just to have this.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

-8 whole wheat tortillas (I like Aztec brand best because they don't have the grainy, dry texture of most whole wheat tortillas... Aztec are found in the dairy aisle at most grocery stores, not in the bread aisle with the other tortillas)
-1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
-1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1/4 cup chopped black olives
-1/4 cup chopped scallions
-2 cups cheddar cheese
-10 eggs. beaten
-chopped cilantro

Spread 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Layer the tortillas on top of the enchilada sauce, overlapping them, and pushing them into the sauce to absorb it.  Top tortillas with black beans, olives, scallions and cheese.  Pour eggs over top.  Bake at 400 until eggs are set, about 30-45 minutes.  Sprinkle with cilantro.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beef Enchiladas

Today I made these enchiladas from the Pioneer Woman for dinner.  They were delicious and will definitely be my new go to recipe for beef enchiladas.  All that I did differently was to use whole wheat tortillas instead of corn, and omit the frying of the tortillas step (although I'm sure it produces delicious results when done that way, we like to be a little more health concious around here, and they turned out great without the frying).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

11 weeks

Here's what is going on with Noah this week according to;

Your little one first discovered her hands a couple of weeks back, and now she's downright fascinated with them. Watch as she examines them, puts them in her mouth, and tries to suck on them. Don't worry if your baby becomes a bit obsessed with her newly discovered digits: This form of self-comfort can be very soothing for your baby — and can possibly give you a little break, too. This week, when you go to pick up your baby, she may be able to lift her head and hold it up for several moments, or even longer, while lying on her back. When sitting with support, she should be able to hold her head steady and erect. When she's on her stomach, you might see her lifting her head and chest to about 45 degrees as if she were doing mini-pushups. You can offer encouragement by sitting in front of her and dangling a toy. For a fun game that also develops her neck muscles, place your baby on her back and slowly pull her up by her hands to a sitting position. Slowly ease her back down, and repeat. She should be able to hold her head in line with the rest of her body as it's pulled up. Your baby may be ready for a jogging stroller at 4 months, but stick to smooth pavement for now. Running trails will be too bouncy for her at this point, unless she can hold her head up well and is able to sit up. When her head is steady, she may be ready for a backpack with good support and a headrest.

Reading to your baby, even at this young age, will pay off. Hearing you read helps your baby develop an ear for the cadence of language. Varying the pitch of your voice, using accents, and singing will make the connection between you and your baby that much more interesting. If she looks the other way or loses interest while you're reading, just try something else or give her time to rest. Take your cue from her responses. You'll find plenty of good books to read to your baby — such as Goodnight Moon, Good Night Gorilla, and The Big Red Barn. Choose board books that have large, bright pictures and simple text — or even wordless books that have pictures for you to narrate. At this point you needn't be slavish to age guidelines. Books designed for older children can captivate a baby if they have clear, crisp images and bright colors. You can even read out loud to your child from something written for adult ears — try reading from the newspaper, your favorite novel, or a magazine. Whether it's Shakespeare or the latest bestseller, if you enjoy reading it, your baby will like hearing the rhythms of your voice.

Noah is doing great.  He is continuing to get more and more plump and starting to develop some fat rolls in his legs.  As time goes by he smiles more and more each day, and for longer periods of time.  He is still sleeping through the night, and most days Jeremy goes in and wakes him up a little after 5 while he is getting ready for work.  He is obsessed with his hands, and is constantly rubbing them together, or sticking them in his mouth.  Within the last week he has given us a good laugh once or twice, but for the most part he just smiles and makes noises at us.  He doesn't seem to care too much about toys yet, but he loves watching us or looking around the room.  He has started to stare at the TV and/ or laptop while they are on, so we are trying to turn keep him turned facing us so that he doesn't get hooked on them yet.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer

This is our favorite Indian dish.  Paneer (Indian cheese) is easy to make yourself or to find in an ethnic market, although I often use ricotta salata as a substitute. Traditionally the cheese would be fried, but I skip that step to lighten up the dish. I've also used frozen spinach rather than fresh, and fat-free half and half instead of the sour cream.

-2 Tbsp olive oil
-2 cloves garlic, chopped
-1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
-2 dried red chile peppers
-1 onion, diced
-2 teaspoons ground cumin
-1 teaspoon ground coriander
-1 teaspoon ground turmeric
-3/4 cup sour cream
-3 pounds fresh spinach, torn
-1 large tomato, quartered
-4 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves
-8 oz paneer
-salt to taste

In a large pan heat olive oil and saute garlic, ginger, red chilies, and onion until brown. Mix in the cumin, coriander, turmeric and sour cream (add more or less to achieve desired creaminess). Add the spinach, handfuls at a time until it is cooked down, about 15 minutes total. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour spinach mixture into a blender or food processor and add the tomato, and cilantro. Blend for 15 to 30 seconds, or until the spinach is finely chopped. Pour back into the saucepan and keep warm over low heat.  Add the cheese to the spinach and cook for 10 minutes on low heat. Season with salt to taste. Serve over rice.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Curried Chicken Pasta Salad

Today for lunch I threw together this Curried Chicken Pasta Salad with ingredients that I had on hand.  I made a few changes, as listed, and the end result was delicious!

-I used fat-free half and half instead of the heavy cream, and I only used 1/2 cup of it because that's all I had on hand
-I used light mayo and sour cream
-I added 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-I added 6 chopped scallions
-I changed the raisins to dried cranberries and used 1 cup of them
-I used whole wheat pasta
-I used 1 cup of almonds

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

10 weeks

Here is what is going on with Noah this week according to;

He's no Fred Astaire yet, but your little one's movements are getting a bit more coordinated. You'll notice that the jerky arm and leg movements of his newborn days have given way to smoother, more circular motions, especially when he's watching people. Give your baby enough space to stretch and move his arms and legs. Lay a blanket on the floor and let him move as he pleases. These movements can help your baby strengthen and tone his developing muscles. On his tummy, he'll start to push off with his legs — the first step in getting on the move.

Whether you envision your little one sleeping independently in a crib at an early age or sharing a family bed in the coming years, a soothing and predictable bedtime routine will help your child nod off and get the rest he needs. And it's not too early to start. Your routine can include rocking, singing, a bath, a bedtime story, cuddling with a transitional object (such as a soft blanket or stuffed animal), being carried around the house and saying goodnight to each room — whatever makes sense for your family. The ritual will evolve as your child gets older.

At this age, your baby should be open to making friends with babies and adults alike. You may notice that he smiles when he sees anyone come in the room or holds out his arms when someone wants to hold him.  Now's a good time to introduce your baby to sitters or other people who might be looking after him later on. Have potential caregivers come over and spend time with you and your baby. Later on, he may be consumed by stranger anxiety, making a simple introduction seem impossible.  Do remember that babies have different temperaments and some are less open to new people than others. If your baby doesn't welcome someone new with open arms, be patient, hold him close, and reintroduce him. It may just take some time. Familiar surroundings will help introductions go more smoothly.

Noah is still sleeping through the night almost every night (which I LOVE!).  He continues to smile and talk to us throughout the day.  He has started holding and/ or rubbing his hands together most of the time.  His grip is also getting quite firm as he tightly grasps whatever he can get his hands on.  He still loves to suck on things, and when we don't give him a pacifier he tends to stick his hand in his mouth and suck on any fingers that he can get in there.  Within the past few days when he is lying on his back he has also started kicking and holding his legs straight up in the air... maybe he's trying to work out his abs already.  Jeremy has started playing guitar for him, and a couple times within the last week he has propped Noah up right in front of him for a personal concert.  Both Noah and I LOVE that Jeremy does this.  He has started drooling a lot, and we are keeping a bib on him at most times.  He has also been spitting up quite a bit recently and I've been doing some research on reflux and will probably try some of the tips that I've found to see if they help him.  I think he has been feeling a little under the weather for the past few days (he might still be recovering from the cold we had a month ago).  He has a lot of congestion in his chest which I can hear when he breathes, and his spit up often has a slimy consistency, which I'm assuming is the drainage coming up that has him all clogged up.  Because of all this I think he has been a little more fussy than normal, but this can usually be fixed by some quality time holding and snuggling him.